Wautoma, WI
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Bob Erikson of Westby used a walking plow behind his donkeys (don’t call them mules) - Olga and Bernice - during a plowing day at Arena on Saturday (Sept. 7) taking his turn working up the sandy soil with his well-matched five-year-olds.

Bob Erikson of Westby used a walking plow behind his donkeys (don’t call them mules) - Olga and Bernice - during a plowing day at Arena on Saturday (Sept. 7) taking his turn working up the sandy soil with his well-matched five-year-olds. Photo By Jan Shepel

Plowing day brings out teams, spectators

Sept. 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Jan Bob Erikson

Bob Erikson of Westby used a walking plow behind his donkeys (don’t call them mules) - Olga and Bernice - during a plowing day at Arena on Saturday (Sept. 7) taking his turn working up the sandy soil with his well-matched five-year-olds.

 

 

Jan Shepel

Associate Editor

ARENA

The leather squeaks and the harness chains clatter softly against each other as a team of horses quietly moves forward through the hot September sun, the plow behind them turning over the soft, sandy soil.

For just a few hours last weekend teamsters had the chance to re-live the days when land was turned over by a piece of iron pulled by a good team of horses - or even donkeys.

Rod Anding, who farms in the area, organized the event just because he loves the feel of the lines, the smell of the oiled harnesses and the sweat of the horses. He hosted the event on his land for nine years.

The Anding farm on Coon Rock Road has been in his family since 1895 – when horses were the only means of getting the work done.

"My dad always had draft horses and I got all my horse equipment from my great uncle. I love draft horses. If you want to know why I get this event together it’s because I just love it. I love the smells, the sounds, everything."

The event began years ago when Anding had a habit of using his Suffolk Punch teams to plow below his barn. "People kept stopping in to watch."

From that modest beginning and his love of working with draft horses, the event grew into a big event. In years past the big finish for the weekend was hitching his 12 wooden-wheeled grain drills to teams and getting a field planted.

Anding said what it’s really all about for him is trying to recapture days he remembers as a kid – his mother bringing dinner out to the prairie and the whole family sitting under a huge old oak tree to sit and picnic and visit.

"Even if we don’t have that big, old oak tree I hope people use a day like this to learn how to visit."

There was no oak tree at the edge of the field last weekend but organizers had put up plenty of striped tents and provided chairs and tables for folks to accomplish their visiting.

As the heat built on Saturday, many were content to sit there and observe the work of the horses from the shade.

Grandma Mary’s catering from Arena brought out a wagon to sell lunch and drinks and many took advantage of that.

Insurance concerns put an end to the annual event last year, but Anding said he was thrilled when Dick Peck of Peck’s Farm Market agreed to host the plow day this year in a big, sandy field just west of his market on Highway 14.

In addition to the horses, many farmers brought their old restored tractors to work on parts of the field away from the horses.

But it was clear - from the number of photographs that were taken - most of the spectators were romanced by the horses.

Spectators and other drivers alike shared their enthusiasm when Anding told them the event would be on again after the one-year hiatus.

Teams of horses arrived Saturday from Illinois and Iowa as well as all points in southern Wisconsin.

Some spectators dropped in off the highway to watch as drivers and their teams took turns plowing the soft sandy soil.

Bob Erikson hauled his pair of donkeys – Olga and Bernice - from Westby for the event, hooking them up to a walking plow and working them up and down the field. He worked all day to remind people that they were not mules.

"They’re not stubborn at all," he said earnestly. "They’ve always been very cooperative."

Erikson allows that the team’s temperament must match that of their handler and some folks just don’t have the disposition to work with mules or donkeys.

He got this pair four years ago when they were just yearlings and has been training them ever since. He has no intention of breeding them, but is happy they are just a good, working pair.

"Up here in the North there is no mule breeding industry, but in the Southern states there are a lot of good-sized donkeys that are crossed with horses to get very nice mules."

Spectators had the chance to see a gang of horse handlers work together to hook up 12 Percheron draft horses to a disc and then re-work the soil after it was plowed – kicking up a cloud of dust behind them.

The big horses – in shades of black and gray – were hitched up six abreast and then hooked to the disc. Several drivers were on board to help handle the lines for that large team of big horses.

Later in the day people saw a well-matched six-horse Belgian team hooked up to a two-bottom plow.

Anding took a turn in the afternoon sun with his Suffolk team and sulky plow, still in good shape with the original labeling on it. The father-and-son team pulled steadily and smartly with Anding holding the lines.

"If I’m going to organize this event, I have to have a little fun don’t I?" he said with a smile.

 

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